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Big plans for Latham mall site

Demolition slated to start in February for new plaza

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
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Demolition is expected to begin next month to replace the aging Latham Circle Mall with the Shoppes at Latham Circle.
Demolition is expected to begin next month to replace the aging Latham Circle Mall with the Shoppes at Latham Circle.

— A Boston developer has big plans to take the moribund Latham Circle Mall back to its 1957 roots, transforming it into an open-air plaza with an entertainment venue, grocer, restaurant and retailers.

The Colonie Town Board approved the project last week. A Grossman Development Group official confirmed Wednesday that asbestos abatement could take up to two months and then demolition of the existing structure will begin in February.

A bit of the old will remain — including Lowe’s, J.C. Penney and a 10-screen Regal Cinemas — but everything else will come down and be redeveloped into a new facility with an entirely new image and a new name: the Shoppes at Latham Circle.

“We’d like a good mix of fine dining and casual restaurants, a grocery store, department store, footwear-type store and sporting goods store,” said Mark Hebert, Grossman’s vice president of development.

Construction will begin in late March and is expected to be complete by spring 2014, a delay from the original goal of fall 2013.

Developers have an interesting hurdle to overcome in selling the site to potential tenants. Although the site is located in one of the Capital Region’s wealthiest and busiest areas, Latham Circle Mall has a serious image problem. It has a few anchor stores left, but many consider it to be a dead mall.

“The mall is overdue for a face-lift,” said Hebert.

Latham Circle Mall was converted from an open plaza into an enclosed mall in the late 1970s and was renovated several times after that. Area shoppers once considered it the place to shop in the Capital Region. The Boston Store and Woolworth were big draws, but both closed down for various reasons and were replaced with a Burlington Coat Factory and Stein Mart, the latter of which also eventually closed. Over the past decade, more and more stores have closed down or moved out.

Today, the once-thriving mall has vacant storefronts, an empty food court and deteriorating driveways and parking lots.

“It wasn’t able to reinvent itself like some of the other competitive retail developments in the area,” Hebert said at an August Town Board meeting. “The center has since suffered consequences by being stigmatized by local and national retailers during this period of inactivity.”

Grossman Development Group has worked with town officials, engineers, architects and mall neighbors over the past year and a half to develop a revival plan that would bring in anywhere from seven to 12 new tenants.

The mall will return to its origins as an open plaza, with one- and two-story storefronts facing Route 9. The ground level will be revamped with new facades and more parking spaces. The mall’s 589,000 square feet will be reduced by about 110,000 square feet under the reconfiguration, according to early estimates by developers.

A separate 6,000-square-foot building that a restaurant could occupy will be constructed near the circle at the intersection of routes 2 and 9. Plans for a second outlying building near Lowe’s fell through, said Hebert.

“We couldn’t find the right tenant mix and solution with Lowe’s,” he said.

Grossman has a joint venture partnership with C.B. Richard Ellis, which foreclosed on the property after former owner Eugene Weiss defaulted on a $25 million loan.

Officials from a national restaurant chain flew up from Texas earlier this year to visit the site, which they hoped would be ready in 2013.

Hebert describes the effort to sign new tenants as a “wait-and-see-type environment” but confirmed that some tenants have signed leases already. Grossman will announce names in the next 45 days.

In addition to changing the mall’s name, Grossman has designed a new logo for the center.

“I’ve developed shopping centers with similar types of images,” he said. “But you can change the entire look and landscape of the center with new tenants. The funny thing about construction is that it’s a yearlong process and once it’s done you tend to forget what was there before.”

 
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